Monday, May 5, 2008


The prison population has swelled in recent years – in the last six years, the proportion of Americans in jail has risen over 40%. The primary cost to society comes in the imprisoning of its citizens, depriving them of the opportunity for success later in life, with the costs compounding with each additional year behind bars. But, now that states are enacting radical plans to trim their prison populations, it isn't out of kindness but out of fiscal necessity. Corrected for inflication, prison spending by states has risen by 127% in the last twenty years. Even Mississippi's Republican governor, in a state not known for its humane justice system, is letting go:

In Mississippi, where the prison population has doubled during the past dozen years to 22,600, Gov. Haley Barbour (R) has signed into law two measures that will reduce it: One to let certain nonviolent offenders go free after serving 25 percent of their sentences, and the other to release some terminally ill inmates.

But like I said, the government is easing up, but it's got a long ways to come down: Michigan (home of #8 in enrollment Michigan State and research giant University of Michigan) spends more on jailing people ($2 billion) than it does on higher education ($1.9 billion). Unfortunately, I think that only marginal change can come about until America reconsiders its love affair with prohibition.

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